By LINDA CHION KENNEY
A lucky group of Hillsborough County teachers can check one more thing off their respective wedding planning lists, thanks to the bridal dress giveaway at The Regent in Riverview on May 3.
The event followed a similar giveaway in October for first responders, as a way of saying thank you to them for their tireless service during pandemic times. Following that effort, nominations were sought from Hillsborough County School District educators, who also have stood the test of time as classroom teachers, navigating life and work through lockdowns, shutdowns and pandemic protocols, anxiety and concerns.
Leading up to the big dress giveaway for teachers, promoter Maureen Famiano announced nominations had been reviewed and that selected educators were chosen and contacted for wedding dress fittings. Soon, the brides-to-be would be going home “with amazing couture wedding dresses,” she said.
That day came May 3, when 24 teachers, according to a video prepared by the Hillsborough County school officials, took home dresses that ranged in price from $800 to $3,000, according to event organizer Shannon Kiel, chief executive officer of The Regent in Riverview.
“We bring dresses in; they’re not for everybody, but when you find that dress for that bride it really is extra, extra special,” said Alison Farnan, who with her husband, Peter, owns Satin & Lace Bridal Boutique in the Winthrop community in Riverview. The Farnans, through Satin & Lace, partnered with The Regent in the bridal dress giveaways.
“This dress means a lot to me,” said fourth-grade teacher Kimberly Kent, featured in a video report on the wedding dress giveaway. “It gives me as a teacher, and also as a foster mom, the opportunity to make [my wedding] day special. We always do for everybody else, so for somebody to take the time to do this for us and allow us to have time to make us feel special, like we make everybody else feel special, is amazing.”
According to Famiano, The Regent staff before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic had acquired wedding dresses about to be tossed, then needed to hold on to them because of safety protocols in place.
“There were about 30 dresses to start and they ranged in value from $800 to $2,800,” Famiano said. “The goal was to give them away to those deserving healthcare first responders [working] in hospitals.” She added that some local residents, upon hearing of the effort, in turn, donated their unworn dresses as well.
With more dresses on hand after the October event, attention switched to teachers, as the drive to thank front-line workers took on a new dimension for Kiel, who had a particularly tough time fighting the virus herself.
“She almost died,” Famiano said, of Kiel’s CORONA virus battle. Her doctor said, ‘I don’t know whom you pray to, but they saved your life.’ It was a chilling moment, and confirmation she had chosen the right thing to do with those dresses.”